Sunday, April 24, 2011

Always close but never quite close enough

I've always prided myself on the fact that despite it being 13 years since I left high school, I've always been able to remember a basic amount of French. And it's taken me far dammit. I've used this to smash down language barriers throughout my travels; haggling in Morocco, finding my way on the streets of Paris, communicating with wayward bus drivers in Spain, conversing with randoms in a park in Tokyo. And sure, it was never perfect. I don't know my numbers between 40-99, so haggling involved me protesting something was too expensive but never being able to name a price and upon asking for directions, I could never remember left from right, but still, I COMMUNICATED.

Recently, my French wall of pride has crumbled slightly. The other night I revealed to a friend who speaks fluent French that despite my poor 'vocabulaire' I could get around places, like shops for example, with relative ease. To demonstrate my grasp of the language, I even said my standard shop phrase to her; 'je regarde', which I thought meant, 'I'm just looking'. After she recovered from what I soon realised wasn't admiration, I found out I'd been walking around saying 'I look' like a broken robot: I look, I look, I look. Embarrassing but not as embarrassing as what I found out last night.

As part of my French phrase repertoire, I often crack out one of my favourite, most useful phrases; 'can you repeat that more slowly please'? After my mother, fluent in French, almost fell off her chair and started hyperventilating from laughing too hard, she pointed out that I'd been saying, 'can you repeat that more softly please'.

I've been making the people of France speak more quietly for years now.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Wegetables. That's what my dad says because he can't pronounce his V's. That means I'm Wanessa and apparently I look wery much like a wegetarian. Well, he doesn't think that but a lot of other people do. Without a word of a lie, I'm asked once a month if I'm a vegetarian. Do I have an air of carrot about me? Do I look like a meat hater? Do I look anemic? I've asked all these questions but no one can explain the reason for asking. Apparently, I just look like one. But what does that even mean? If I was going to generalise, I'd say the person doing wide, interpretive dancing down the street wearing tie dyed fisherman pants, smelling like chickpeas and hairier than a Yeti would most likely be a vegetarian. Sure, I'm on the yellow looking side and maybe that makes people think I love corn but I'm a proud meat eater. I've eaten marrow and goddamn it, I order my steaks medium rare.

I'm not a fucking wegetarian ok?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Goodbye dorms, it was fun, really

The other week I was defending my choice of hostel accommodation when travelling. I stated meeting people and the low price as the two main reasons for me being an almost 30 year old hostel devotee. I was questioned as to whether I might be too old to be still doing the hostel thing. I didn't think so. I'm Australian, I have a backpack, I'm somewhat free spirited. Sure, I earn enough money to stay in a hotel, but why splash out on a nice room when all you do is sleep there? So I was feeling pleased with my argument until the one fateful night in Paris a couple of weeks ago.

My woman Skinner took me to Paris for an amazing pre-birthday treat. We had roughly 35 hours in the city and we weren't going to waste a second except for the nine times we got lost trying to find our hostel and the hours spent walking down every side street in the Marais looking for a particular tea shop we'd found two years ago. Our hostel room was standard for Paris, actually, I'd almost say above standard. We were sharing with two others. The first was a Eastern European mute with a laptop and Blackberry (backpackers are totally flush these days) and an American woman in her late fifties. For the sake of the story I'm going to call her Peggy. Let's take a moment to focus some kind of suppressed anger towards her.


Now Peggy had an encyclopedia worth of random bits of paper about the city. She had way more than me and that's saying something. But that's not why we hate her. Peggy seemed fairly harmless until darkness hit. She and the mute were already asleep when we got back from dinner. We were very quiet as we got into our bunks but it wouldn't have made a difference if we'd come in with a kazoo parade because Peggy the Freight Train was already well underway her cross country trip into hell right underneath me. Now, I have to explain that I was very tired due to lack of sleep. Skinner was worse as she had jet lag to deal with too. I consulted with Skinner as to what I should do. She suggested shaking the bed. I did, nothing happened. Then something unthinkable happened. Skinner fell asleep and I was left with the piercing torture of Peggy's snores. I shook the bed at ten minute intervals for two hours. She'd stop for about 2 minutes but the pressure of trying to sleep in those 2 minutes was too much for my frayed nerves and she'd start back up again. After a particularly hard shake, Peggy woke up. I begged her to stop snoring. Peggy looked at me blankly and went to the toilet. When she came out, I begged her again in a desperate whisper to stop snoring and asked her to sleep on her side. Again, she ignored me but she did go to sleep on her side and finally, I went to sleep.

Then next morning Peggy slammed the door on her way out at about 7am. I gather she didn't take to me but I don't care, I had a moment of realisation. So as a result, I've graduated from dorm rooms.

Turns out I kept Skinner awake with all my huffing, puffing and bed shaking. Clearly she has a very good pretend to be sleeping face. It's almost like method acting I think. Clearly I don't have the talent or patience for that.

I think we all learnt something from Peggy.

Paris was awesome though.